Page 104 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 15 February 2011

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Natural disasters

Mrs Shirley Meldrum

Mr Howard Charles Grant OAM

MR DOSZPOT (Brindabella) (5.34): Nationally, this year has begun in a very tragic fashion as we watched helplessly via television the tragedy in Queensland unfold before our eyes—the tens of thousands of people affected through the loss of property and their very livelihoods. Even more tragic of course were the instances where lives were lost. The elements conspired against Victoria and WA as well, and it was good to see the many examples of support, both financial and volunteer, from around the country, including the ACT.

In Canberra we started the year with the loss of several prominent Canberra contributors to the Canberra community. On 20 January, St John’s Church in Reid was filled to capacity to farewell Shirley Meldrum, a wonderful lady who touched the lives of many in our community. Amongst the many tributes paid to her, she has been quite correctly referred to as “the Queen of Canberra”.

Reverend Paul Black, in his eulogy about Shirley, mentioned that she was a person who made a difference because of her commitments to the people of the Canberra community. After the service, it was quite incredible to hear the many stories from a large cross-section of our Canberra community who had stories to tell that highlighted her generosity and energy and her incredible network.

Shirley’s son, Ian Meldrum, in his eulogy, said that even as a child he noticed his mother was showing symptoms of a serial networker and that it was not unusual to come home from school to find the likes of Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert or Prime
Minister Bob Hawke or an ambassador or two, chatting away in their lounge room. He said it was only years later that he discovered these were not normal, run-of-mill visitors.

There was a very moving rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah by one of Shirley’s grandsons, Samuel Millsom, and at the end of the service her grandchildren, Danielle Meldrum, Alexandra Meldrum, Samuel Millsom, Lachlan Fraser, Lucinda Millsom and Angus Fraser wheeled the coffin to the hearse.

The day prior to the funeral service, David Marshall gave a very moving tribute to Shirley Meldrum in a radio interview with Genevieve Jacobs, where he described her as the countess of Kingston and spoke of her many contributions to Canberra charities, including her 50 years of service to the Red Cross, which earned her the Red Cross service award medal, the 50 years service medal and lifetime honorary status. Shirley Meldrum was also awarded the Order of Australia in 1996 for services to the community. We offer our sincere condolences to Shirley Meldrum’s family.

My colleague Brendan Smyth has already paid tribute to another former great contributor to the Canberra community, Howard Grant, and I would like to echo Brendan’s words and our sincere condolences to his wife, Elizabeth Grant, and family.

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